If you are like most people, you like the convenience of canned foods* but don’t think they are very nutritious. The truth is that many canned foods can be as nutritious as fresh food (unless you pick the vegetable from your garden). Many fruits and veggies travel great distances and sit in cold storage before getting to your grocery store shelves which can diminish the nutrient content. Swimmers are always hungry, and even a young swimmer can be taught to make an easy, healthy fourth meal with a simple can and a plan. Here are my top five easy-to-make snacks:


1. Open one can of vegetarian fat-free refried beans and place in microwave safe dish. Add salsa, stir and microwave for a minute of two. Serve with baked tortilla chips…or for the budding chef, toast or grill pita bread and cut into triangles. Beans are higher in protein than most veggies and protein can make you feel full in between meals.


2. Open a can of your favorite broth-based soup (chicken noodle, chicken and rice, vegetable, etc.) and raid the vegetable bin in the fridge. Broccoli, green beans, baby carrots, asparagus, spinach, or whatever is in the fridge can be washed and steamed in the microwave for a few minutes and then added to soup. Top with some Parmesan cheese for a filling snack. 


3.  Open a can of garbanzo beans (also known as chick peas or those round beige beans on the salad bar) and pour into a colander to drain; then rinse. Put the beans in a bowl and mash with a fork; drizzle some olive oil into the mashed beans and season with salt and pepper for a quick hummus. For the more adventurous chef, add chopped garlic or roasted red peppers. Spread hummus on crackers or use as a dip for veggies.


4. Open a can of tuna (try white, Albacore or light tuna canned in water) and make a healthy tuna salad with chopped celery and carrots and a touch of pickle relish. Mix with light mayonnaise and spread on a toasted mini-bagel. Tuna is a good source of healthy omega-3-fatty acids or “fish oil.” 


5. Open and drain a can of your favorite fruit (look for fruit canned in juice). Add fruit to cottage cheese, vanilla yogurt or Greek yogurt and top with chopped nuts for a sweet, healthy snack. 


* There is some controversy around a chemical called BPA in some canned foods. The FDA has not banned it from food containers but there are many companies who use BPA-free cans. A search of a company’s website can answer any questions you might have about BPA in canned foods. 

Chris Rosenbloom is the sports dietitian for Georgia State University Athletic Department and is the editor of the American Dietetic Association’s Sports Nutrition Manual, 5th edition, 2012.